The Sound of Gravel is an ultra-compelling story. Ruth Wariner is her mother’s four child and her father’s thirty-ninth. Her mother was the fifth wifeThe Sound of Gravel is an ultra-compelling story. Ruth Wariner is her mother’s four child and her father’s thirty-ninth. Her mother was the fifth wife of Joel LeBaron, “the prophet” of the LeBaron fundamentalist Mormon colony in Chihuahua, Mexico. Ruth’s father died while she was still an infant after which her mother became the second of her stepfather Lane’s four wives.
I can understand why men are drawn to polygamist cults like this. It feeds their egos, gives them an exaggerated idea of their own manhood, and allows them endless opportunities to indulge their carnal desires all justified in the name of religion. No matter what losers they are, their wives will fight over who gets to take care of them and spend time with them, and because taking multiple wives and siring as many children as possible is a tenet of their religion and not a personal choice, they are under no obligation or responsibility to support their families.
For women like Ruth’s mother who choose to stay despite the terrible cost to themselves and their children, I can’t understand it. Her own parents eventually got wise and left the cult, but she bought the "poor but rich in spirit" baloney hook, line, and sinker. I realize she had been brainwashed and wasn't terribly bright, but I still can't understand who would really want to serve a god like this. That pitiable deluded woman who was perfectly willing to sacrifice her children for a promised afterlife. She saw everything as a test of faith and part of the "God's plan" instead of the direct result of the actions of herself and others. It was horrible to watch the abuse and neglect that she visited upon her children through strict obedience to her delusional religious beliefs. If you ever wanted evidence for why human rights restrictions need to be placed on the freedom of religion, this book has plenty.
Ruth’s childhood is gut-wrenchingly sad. Her mother is a true believer, and as a result she subjects herself and her children to abject poverty and squalid living conditions in the name of eternal salvation and protection against the ever-impending End of Days, the longed for event during which Jesus would return to gather all the true Christians up to heaven and cast everyone else into hell. Because all of the men in the colony have more wives and children than they can possibly afford, all of the women in the community commit welfare fraud via false addresses in the United States. While lying and stealing are generally considered “sins,” as one of the colony’s main sources of funding, everyone feels entitled to take advantage of Babylon’s (aka the United States’) generous social benefits. Because they are “doing the Lord’s work,” they deserve to have someone else support them in their chosen lifestyle.
And it’s not just poverty that mars Ruth’s early life. It is constant instability. Her mother and stepfather move the family around with no regard for the children’s welfare. They don’t care about their living conditions, or their education, or their basic levels of sanitation. The defining characteristic of Ruth's mother's home in the colony is “the smell of mouse droppings.” A lot of the time they didn't have electricity or running water. Fellow residents of their trailer park in Texas reported the family to Child Protective Services, and there is almost a moment when the reader thinks Ruth and her siblings will be taken away and given a chance in life, but Ruth's mother manages to lie her way out of the situation (apparently lying isn't a sin when lying to non-believers) ... although she does get two years probation during which the family has a greater degree of stability than usual for which Ruth is grateful.
Her mother Kathy produces children, some of whom have serious cognitive and developmental disabilities, at an alarming rate, and unlike her second husband’s Mexican first wife, it is beyond her ability to care for them in even the most elemental way. While Alejandra can cook, clean, and sew and taught her daughters to cook, clean and sew as well, Kathy’s only domestic skill seems to be baking bread in tin cans and getting pregnant. As the oldest girl without a disability, Ruth is the default caretaker expected to take up the slack from her mother. She was forced to leave school to help with her younger half-siblings. While Ruth’s half- and step-siblings by other mothers are clean and at least moderately well dressed (perhaps their relatives in the United States send them money as Lane is a total deadbeat), she and the children in her mother’s household are almost exclusively filthy and dressed in a dirty hodgepodge of ragged clothing. They are barely fed, and aside from the time they spent in California with her mother’s parents, they subsist on homemade bread, beans, and rice.
After over a decade of low level abuse, Ruth finally has an epiphany. "I realized then that I couldn't count on [my mother's] promises and began to wonder why she didn't seem able to protect my siblings and me. I just couldn't understand it." As if living in squalor and instability isn’t bad enough, Ruth’s mother cannot even keep her children physically safe from their stepfather. Ruth’s stepfather molested her for years and years. She told her mother the first time, and her mother “talked” to him after which he promised it wouldn’t happen again. He then continued to molest her for years. When she and two of his other step-daughters finally came forward, much to the dismay of his wives, the Elders banned him from the colony for two years. Surprisingly -- or unsurprisingly depending upon your personal experience -- the adult women blamed the victims. The girls were “pretty,” so naturally he would be sexually attracted to them. They enjoyed him touching them. He was just grooming them for their husbands. It could have been worse (meaning that it was only fondling and not penetration), and they were just being spoiled brats about it. They should consider how much their stepfather has suffered and how humiliating the accusations were for him. They are ruining his life by continuing to bring up his sexual abuse. They need to forgive like Jesus says in the Bible. It was disgusting.
Tragically, (view spoiler)[it is only the death of their mother (hide spoiler)] that allows Ruth and her surviving maternal siblings to escape to a life of relative safety and stability with their extended family in the United States. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The subtitle of the book is very misleading, and it seems contradictory to the standard parenting advice that children should be allowed to make theirThe subtitle of the book is very misleading, and it seems contradictory to the standard parenting advice that children should be allowed to make their own choices and encouraged to be independent. When Dr. Sax says that treating children like adults is detrimental to them, he doesn't mean considering them to be individuals with their own inner lives, minds, and emotions who are (or will one day be) capable of rational thought, problem solving, decision making, and independent living. He means that it is harmful to transform the parent-child relationship into a peer relationship in which a child (who possesses very little life experience and limited cognitive abilities) is given equal authority to that of a fully functioning, mature adult. Parents need to have authority to parent their children. Otherwise, they will be unable to teach, correct, and guide their children to become mature, fully functioning adults with the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to be at least minimally successful in life. In relationships between adults, nearly everything is negotiable. In relationships between parents and children, the parent shouldn't be negotiating. The parent should also understand that listening to your child's opinion, feelings, and point of view doesn't mean that the parent has to do what the child wants.
Abdicating parental responsibility causes several problems. Those Dr. Sax addresses are:
After his parents announce at breakfast that they will be having a baby, a little boy spends the entire day asking people where babies come from. HisAfter his parents announce at breakfast that they will be having a baby, a little boy spends the entire day asking people where babies come from. His babysitter tells him from "the Baby Tree." His teacher tells him from the hospital. His grandfather tells him from a stork. The mail carrier tells him from eggs. Finally, at bedtime, his parents give him a very simplified biological version in which a "seed" from Dad is planted in an egg from Mom (no mention of the circumstances under which this occurs) and then growing for nine months until a baby is born usually at a hospital although sometimes at home.
The best part of this book is that the last page has a question and answer sheet for children ages 4 to 6, and this page contains more detailed medically accurate information about pregnancy. It also answers the more social questions about adoption and same-sex parents....more
This is a good introduction to pregnancy and childbirth. It's age appropriate for small children and mostly medically accurate. I wish the author woulThis is a good introduction to pregnancy and childbirth. It's age appropriate for small children and mostly medically accurate. I wish the author would have used the term "embryo" instead of seed because egg and sperm do not combine to form a seed. She could have easily used the correct term in addition the seed metaphor. I did like that the book mentioned homebirth: "A baby can be born at home or in a hospital."
It's a shame that this is an alphabet rather than a dictionary. Because there can only be one beast per letter, a lot of very cool medieval creaturesIt's a shame that this is an alphabet rather than a dictionary. Because there can only be one beast per letter, a lot of very cool medieval creatures had to be left out by necessity. The format also necessitates some very obscure stretches. The pronunciation guide at the front is a big help.
There are several varieties of dragons (amphisbaena, firedrake, wyvern) and sea monsters (echeneis, hippocampus, kraken, ozaena, triton, ziphius). Unfortnately, the illustrator chose to depict the unicorn with the body of a jackal-like beast rather than a horse. One of my favorites, the manticore, is also included. My only real compliant about the illustrations is that a sheen of ugliness and aggressiveness colors everything, so everything is rather horrible than majestic or awe-inspiring....more
Despite the suggestion of its title, this is not a book dedicated solely to "the art of the maze" although a sizable portion is devoted to the designsDespite the suggestion of its title, this is not a book dedicated solely to "the art of the maze" although a sizable portion is devoted to the designs of some of the world's most beautiful mazes. For those interested in mazes it is an excellent and informative book in many ways; however, it does have a few shortcomings.
The greatest of these shortcomings is the layout. Dozens of lovely large color photographs fill THE ART OF THE MAZE, but their placement is problematic. They sometimes appear pages before or after their discussion in the text, which can lead to frustrated page flipping if the reader wishes to see a depiction of something as it is being described. The sidebars containing valuable information occur haphazardly throughout the book, often popping up dead center in the text making them more of an interruption than an enrichment.
There is also added confusion due to the designation of labyrinths -- the maze's forerunner and ancestor -- as a type of maze. Early on the authors distinguish between a labyrinth, which has a single winding path to its center, and a maze, which has junctions and choices and is in essence a kind of puzzle to be solved. However, labyrinths and mazes are then treated as a single entity for the rest of the book. This can be aggravating for those readers who have studied labyrinths as a phenomenon unique from mazes.
If the reader can get past these sticking points, THE ART OF THE MAZE is a valuable book. It provides an excellent history of labyrinths in its opening chapter "Origins and History." Particularly enjoyable is the lengthy treatment of "The Man in the Maze" labyrinth motif found in the Tohono O'otam and Pima tribes of Arizona. The authors give keen insight into the early uses of labyrinths among past cultures. They also present the fascinating theory that labyrinths may actually be symbolic representations of mazes, which would make the maze far older than previously believed.
The second chapter "The Nature of Puzzlement" introduces the different types of mazes. It even tells how to solve the simplest maze design via the "hand-on-wall" method. A fair amount of history is included in this section as well.
The third chapter "Mazes in the Landscape" is undoubtedly what gave the book its name. It showcases the most famous, most beautiful, and most elaborate mazes in the world as well as the best examples of mazes for each medium from hedges to turf to wood and metal to stained glass. The incredible Alice-In-Wonderland Maze at Merritown House in Dorset, the "imprint" foot mazes at Gloucestershire and Bicton Park, and England's oldest hedge maze at Hampton Court Palace are among those featured. This section contains fantastic, full color, aerial photographs. "Mazes in the Landscape" is also the best laid out chapter, and almost all of its graphics line up with the text.
The fourth and final chapter "The Riddle of the Maze" is a wrap-up chapter on the maze's appeal, offering a few ideas as to why the maze has become a subject of renewed interest. Differing from the other sections, its focus is on the maze as an art form rather than a structure or pattern.
A glossary opens this book following the Duke of Marlborough's introductory letter. Included at the end are a gazetteer of mazes around the world sorted by country, a short bibliography for further reading, and a thorough index. As for the book itself, it is well bound for a paperback....more